Category Archives: Drug Policy

The Case for the Decriminalization of Drugs


The United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any other country in the world.  Of those incarcerated, a shockingly disproportionate number are Black men.  Section I of this analysis explores how United States drug policy has evolved as a means to exercise racial control by mass incarceration under the guise of the so-called “war on drugs”.  The problem is explored from various ideological perspectives and within the ethical frameworks from which drug policy has developed.  Who gains and who loses from current policy is discussed as a means to understand how the policy persists.  Historical and symbolic racism are offered as root causes of the social problem.  In Section II of this analysis, current trends in drug policy are explored with particular emphasis on drug decriminalization and legalization.  Drug policy reforms in Portugal, Colorado, Washington, and Seattle, including use of harm reduction strategies, are offered as possible frameworks for social advocacy and reform.  A shift away from a criminal justice paradigm and towards a model of public health in drug policy is recommended.

(This article was completed in April 2014 and submitted by the Site Administrator in partial fulfillment of the Master of Science in Social Work at the Kent School of Social Work, University of Louisville)

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Re-thinking the War on Drugs

war_on_drugs2-2cba2Substance abuse and drug trafficking are unquestionably major social concerns that merit the attention of government.  Unfortunately, U.S. drug and crime policies have emerged which are grossly ineffective in terms of reducing demand.  Still worse, these same policies which were born out of animus for minority groups and immigrants, have wrought disastrous consequences for individuals, families, and communities by establishing a system of mass incarceration that has laid waste to the promises of freedom and liberty enshrined in our Constitution.  After briefly reviewing the history of the so-called “war on drugs” and considering its substantial ongoing costs to society, it will be clear that immediate action along the lines of policy overhaul and redressing individual harms is necessary.  Ultimately, the social work profession is required as a matter of professional core values and ethics to lead the way of reform and rehabilitation.

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